Since first hooking up for Edward Scissorhands more than 20 years ago, Tim Burton and Johnny Depp have made eight films together.

They've sure done their bit for the Halloween costume business. Most of them have involved Depp slapped in white facepaint, acting odd.

Dark Shadows is no different. Depp is Barnabas Collins, a vampire untombed after 200 years into 1971.

It might not be his oddest paleface - his Collins is actually a picture of quirk-restraint when compared to his Willy Wonka or Mad Hatter. But the movie he's in sure keeps up the levels of zany despite him.


The problem is Dark Shadows can't seem to be anything more than an edge of self-parody Tim Burton film.

It's certainly got lavish gothic-meets-lava-lamp style.

But it's a horror that's never really scary, a comedy that's never that funny and when it attempts to be sexy - care of Eva Green as a witch who cursed Barnabas and still wants him bad now that he's back - it just adds to the general unevenness of tone.

The best or biggest past Burton-Depp combos have usually involved source material of some substance - the works of Roald Dahl, Stephen Sondheim, Lewis Carroll. This one, though, isn't up to it in the story department.

It comes from the guy who directed Beetlejuice and Hammer Horror cover version, Sleepy Hollow, another of Burton-Depp's amusing indulgences.

It's based on the 1960s American TV horror soap of the same name, which wasn't exactly The Addams Family. It uses that series as a leaping-off point - quite literally in its prologue - for a farce that starts off by introducing Barnabas to his 1971 heirs (Pfeiffer, Moretz and others) still holed up in the family mansion, watching their fortune evaporate but then can't think of anything to do with them until the mad grand finale.

Bonham Carter as the family's resident sozzled psychiatrist is a lot of fun. And getting in Alice Cooper to sing a few of his old favourites is a hoot, though it does also suggest that Dark Shadows, with its many contrivances, might well have worked better as a musical.

Sure, Depp is amusing enough, all Max Schreck fingers, old world manners, and slight risk of combustibility when he strays into the sunlight.


But the best gags for this fish-out-of-water dealing with 20th century life are already in the trailer and the rest is a middling movie Burton could do in his sleep. And here, it feels like he has.

Stars: 3/5
Cast: Johnny Depp, Eva Green, Michelle Pfeiffer, Chloe Moretz, Helena Bonham Carter
Director: Tim Burton
Rating: M (horror, violence, offensive language and drug use)
Running time: 114 mins
Verdict: One for forgiving Depp-Burton fans only.